Brett Youngsteadt is just plain happy to be here.
Kane County’s new animal control director was introduced at the Kane County Public Health Committee meeting Tuesday, and probably the only person more excited about it than Youngsteadt was his boss, Kane County Health Department Executive Director Barb Jeffers.
“You know how big my smile was,” Jeffers said after the meeting. “The staff has been very receptive, and it’s been a real delight to have him here. It was definitely worth the search.”
Jeffers has been overseeing the operations of the Animal Control Division since Interim Director Rob Sauceda resigned in May after being placed on administrative leave due to review of a personnel matter. A subcommittee of Kane County officials then undertook a three-month search and interview process to find a full-time director. Youngsteadt was the committee’s top choice.
“Thank you for welcoming me into your family,” Youngsteadt said to members of the Public Health Committee. “It has been a very fast two weeks.”
In a brief interview after the meeting, Youngsteadt said his interest in animal care started at an early age.
“I told my mom when I was a little kid, ‘I want to be a vegetarian.’ She didn’t know if I didn’t want to eat meat or if I was making a career choice,” Youngsteadt said.
He was most definitely signalling a career choice. By age 16, Youngsteadt was working at an animal hospital, and by 17 he was in a management position. He studied biology and chemistry in college and was pointed toward a degree in veterinary medicine, but then found what might have been his dream job, as an administrator with the city of Chicago Department of Animal Care and Control.
“It’s an industry I absolutely love,” Youngsteadt said. “That’s why I have so much passion. I love what I do.”
Youngsteadt started with Kane County on Sept. 2 at a salary of $75,000 a year. He has spent the first few weeks getting to know his fellow employees and learning the management ropes from Jeffers.
He said Tuesday that his long-range goals are to build up the Kane County Animal Control volunteer network, improve the number of pet adoptions and transfers and continue to ensure that the division makes money. Jeffers said in her report to the committee on Tuesday that Animal Control is about $165,000 in the black so far this year, with revenues of $692,175 and expenditures of $526,926.
Youngsteadt said he hopes to grow those numbers and those programs, and he can’t wait to get started on the tasks at hand.
“Baby steps, though,” he said. “We’re going to get (new programs) walking, and then we’re going to get running. We want to do it right. I want to make sure we have the policies and procedures in place to make sure this is a sustainable program.”
Youngsteadt said hopes Kane County’s Animal Control will develop into a model for similar-size departments in Illinois and across the country.
“I want to create something that future generations can look at and say, ‘Wow, he did it right. He set this up and got it running. We just need to keep it going.’ And that’s what we’re going to try to create here.”